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Silvio Berlusconi faces fourth trial on wiretap charges

image captionSilvio Berlusconi has faced a string of charges over the years, but has been convicted of none

Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi is facing a fresh trial on charges of revealing a secret wiretap in 2005.

This will bring to four the number of current trials in which Mr Berlusconi is the main defendant.

The publication of the wiretap in a national newspaper was seen as an attempt to damage Mr Berlusconi's centre-left opponents.

Mr Berlusconi's lawyer vowed the case would "end with nothing, just like all the others", reported AFP news agency.

The scandal-prone former prime minister resigned in November as Italy was engulfed by financial crisis.

He is already facing three current trials for corruption, tax fraud and paying for sex with an underage prostitute.

This latest case - brought by a Milan prosecutor- concerns the publication of a secret transcript of a phone conversation in the newspaper Il Giornale, owned by Mr Berlusconi's brother.

The conversation took place between the head of insurer Unipol and Piero Fassino - as the leader of the biggest centre-left party, Mr Berlusconi's biggest political rival at the time - at the time of Unipol's unsuccessful attempt to take over BNL bank.

It was kept by prosecutors investigating possible inappropriate interference in the case.

The publication of the transcript in a national newspaper broke secrecy rules and the head of the company used by magistrates to record the conversation was later convicted of stealing the audio tape and making it available to Mr Berlusconi, reports said.

String of charges

But in a hearing on Tuesday, Mr Berlusconi denied listening to the tape and said he had not ordered its publication, his lawyer said.

The trail will begin on 15 March.

In numerous trials over the years Mr Berlusconi has been accused of charges including accounting fraud, perjury, bribery, corruption, having unlawful sex with a minor, and fraud over the sale of film rights.

Mr Berlusconi says he is the target of a vendetta by politically biased prosecutors. He has denied all the accusations against him and has either been acquitted or let off under statutes of limitations.

"All as expected," said his lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, of the latest charges.

"We've lost count of the number of trials."